Saturday, February 02, 2008

I'm not in SciFiNow!!!

Well, fame was almost mine. I'd been wondering for years if SFX would even pick up on this little movie that we were doing. OK, so I could have got in touch with them at any point, but that would have been a little presumptuous. (Also they might have laughed and that wouldn't have done me any good!) I'd kind of had a long-standing ambition to get the remake of Hired Guns in there as the best SF game of the year, but that didn't happen... So now there's SciFiNow having joined the ranks of SF magazines for almost a year now and, hey, there was a request for an interview! With Nick.


So I somehow convinced them to include myself by going something like “Me! Me! Me!” and so that was how I came to be writing a bunch of interview answers. And as happens with these things, the whole lot was compressed and edited down to the point where, as you can see in SciFiNow issue 11, my contribution is entirely invisible. Well, apart from a few photos of mine which were credited under “copyright of their respective owners” and one that I'm actually in, (On the hillside in the distance!)

So rather than let them go to waste, I've included them here. Interview questions are copyright of their respective owners...

How did you get into Star Trek and science fiction in the first place?

The first written science fiction I can remember reading were the Scott Saunders adventures by Patrick Moore and collection of Star Trek episodes in short story form, which utterly failed to capture the spirit of it. Star Trek itself wasn't anything I really 'got into' as such, it was just always an ambient part of the 1970s background when I was growing up, along with Space 1999 and the Gemini Man. I recall first watching TOS on my 4" black and white TV. If there was a moment when I suddenly knew this kind of stuff was important, it was missing the pilot episode of Space 1999 and everyone else in the playground was talking about it! Mainly though, it was written fiction that held my imagination from an early age, such as Arthur C Clarkes Islands in the Sky and a collection of Asimov stories that I found in my Dad's cupboard. I think it wasn't until maybe the third season of TNG that I really counted myself as a Star Trek fan. It's funny that now I'm older I have much more of an appreciation for the original series.

What made you decide to create your own series?

It wasn't my idea in the first place, but I managed to secure a place when we were still at the "wouldn't his be cool" stage by having a fairly modern digital video camera. I wasn't aware of other Star Trek fan films at that point, though I knew of Troops which I very much liked. I had no idea it was possible for a bunch of fans to make something, and it seemed like a fun notion for us to do it because our fan club's turnout was dwindling and we wanted some endeavor that kept the core group socialising.

Originally we'd never planned to make an episode, we were making a short film, and for a long time the format seemed to be fairly fluid. In fact I will still use the phrase 'movie' and 'full length episode' interchangeably. By the time it had solidified, it was effectively a pilot episode.

What’s typically involved in the production of an installment?

I don't think there's anything that's 'typical' about it, since we've changed a lot of things for the new shorts that we're making, based on the experience gained. Nick is always telling me to shoot less takes and I'm always telling him that I want to shoot more takes! I personally love the look of the CG bridge which we placed against greenscreen, but I still have nightmares about the amount of keying I had to do night after night. So one of the changes is that we're trying to shoot against physical sets as much as possible.

What equipment do you use for photography and post production?

It's pretty much off the shelf stuff that you could get in the high-street. We've got some higher-end cameras and mikes now, but the first episode was filmed entirely on my Sony Handycam (a TR330) which I'd fortunately bought a little while before the whole idea for the movie came along. I edited and assembled the whole thing on an HP Pavilion laptop using Adobe Premiere. Most of the special effects were created in LightWave by our CG guys and any digital sets were created in Cinema 4D. I still find it amazing that in principle it's possible to go on the net with a credit card and two days later you've got everything you need to make a movie!

Where do you tend to shoot, and do you have permanent sets like Star Trek Exeter?

We have permanent bits of sets, though some of the panels are looking like they need an overhaul! Most of the original movie is shot against greenscreen in Nick and Lucy's spare room, with some of the later material shot in the kitchen.

Given your experience of making fan series, do you have any advice for anybody thinking of starting their own?

Prepare for anguish. As we discovered, doing this was a lot of work and we experienced a lot of setbacks. Make sure that your cast and crew are people who'll go the distance. Way back at the beginning we were nearly scupped by an actor who decided to quit after his first scene had been filmed - to this day he has not bothered to inform me of his decision.

And so there you have it!

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